I’m done with the Writer’s Digest poem a day challenge after writing 21 poems, most of which I’m unhappy with. It’s not the same as Nanowrimo, where you have a giant mass of text to edit once you’re finished writing 50K words in November. I’ve done that, and it’s worked out well, resulting in novels. I’ve also failed at it a few times too.
But poetry is a different animal. Yes, I can edit a poem, but usually if I dislike it overall, things won’t change much in that regard after rearranging some words. So now I have maybe 6 poems I like and 15 I feel meh about. I’m not going to redo them; I’ll just move on and avoid this challenge again. I never had any intention of creating a chapbook ~ I simply wanted to write a bunch of poems.
I don’t find the WD vague prompts helpful in general. For example, today was love/anti-love. I’ve written a million love poems and anti-love poems when I’ve been motivated in that direction from stuff in my own life. But “write a love poem” isn’t a prompt, in my opinion. A prompt is more like Colleen’s “the gray scarf,” which is an image, something concrete, to help generate a scene and/or a feeling. Maybe the gray scarf was worn by a lover or by someone who rejected me. I can see a gray scarf fluttering in the winter wind as his harsh words of goodbye hang in the air like icicles.
See? I’m already excited about this possible poem!
One glorious morning, The epiphany burst into being: It is not my responsibility To hold onto toxic friendship, To nurture malicious gossip, Or to commiserate With narcissistic ranting. Emotional housecleaning Is the key to my sanity; I gather the fuss bunnies And sweep them out the door. Whatever button triggers you Doesn’t need to trigger me; Peaceful solitude is more Desirable than any excitement Generated by drama queens.
She fights against the glowing gloom. Monsters loom and crawl and creep; Shadows swirl upon the stair– She spins and whirls, but nothing’s there. She tries to will herself to sleep, Breathes the cloying midnight air. Knuckles tense, she grips the sheet, Wonders at this dark despair. Can she learn to tame her thoughts– What magic potion might exist To end this conflict once and all? Oh lord, could there be a glimpse Of freedom from this foul attack? Please, she prays, cut me some slack, Remove this stain upon my brain, Repair this hellish mental crack That allows devils space to reign. Soon faint light curls within The bars of her tiny window, And the cycle begins once again.
They say you exist, But I have no proof… I did catch a glimpse Of a face in the mist, A voice in a dream– They swear it’s the truth. An object of adoration, A subject of myth, You inspire dedication– But details are vague, A kaleidoscope twist. You’re the sacred ideal, Aspirational glory, The ultimate bliss. Sacrifice for a steal– You star in every story, So hard to resist. I confess I still pray I’ll find you one day And all promises made Delivered like Christmas.
I craved romance– Roses and wine. He preferred humor With a punchline. I wrote a routine, Bought a clown wig, Invited him to watch My first stand-up gig. He was indifferent, Never clapped once; Then he disappeared And I felt like a dunce. I saw him last night With a girl dressed in lace; He ordered champagne, A smile on his face. This morning she said His sign was all wrong— He was heartbroken, But I laughed so long.
They asked me last night If I believed in love at first sight, And to everyone’s surprise, I said yes. I was the only one Who had faith in such crazy, But when I looked in your eyes, There was never a maybe. I put it all on the line, Risked my heart like a fool, Soaked up all your lies. There was something about you— Your charming, smarmy smile, That kiss on the beach, Your glacial blue gaze, Your heart out of reach. I didn’t need to look twice, Didn’t need months of days To understand my needs; I put it all on the table, Handed you the keys. And given the end game Of an ocean of tears, The spiral of depression, Tormenting for years, Would I do it again? I’d like to write no, But… My treacherous soul Is weaker than my pen.
She dances to forget, To empty her mind Of painful imaginings. She swirls and she dips, Twirls and pirouettes, Hoping to shake loose Thoughts of all she’s lost. She focuses on the now, The beat and the melody, Connects to this moment, And discards yesterdays. She understands too well It’s a temporary respite; When the music’s over She’ll remember everything.
The empty page beckons– Fill me with words, Create a universe, Give me a hero! Sentences appear In a jangled tangle, Forming black holes Of plot points; Protagonists burn out Like comets; The arc is a circle And I’m back where I began. My favorite device Is control-A-delete: It’s easier to start over Than to fix something broken. The blank story remains The perfect story, Unwritten In invisible ink.
Tanka written for the Writer’s Digest 2022 PAD Chapbook Challenge (Day 13: ekphrastic). I chose to base my poetry on Beltrane, 2014, by Sharon Ellis, which I had the pleasure to view last month at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA).